Before looking into the detail of exactly what I’m responsible for, how we are going to keep it going or where to start making changes I want to know what the incident response plans and guidelines are.
Just because it's your first day does not mean that there won't be a power cut, system crash or worse. Asking about incident and continuity response as soon as you can - shortly after confirming the engagement - makes a lot of sense. It allows you time to review and ask questions. You might even be able to discuss with the people currently responsible and get their insight on how well the plans stood up to their last test, if there was a last test……
With the ball rolling on response plans, the first thing I do, even before I get to the first team meeting or social, is ask myself - Why have I been selected? What about my experience, skills, personality and values made me the right fit for this role? Is it because I can come in and make small incremental changes in order to continue coaching a successful team to its goals? Or is it because this team needs a turn around, roles need to be filled by different individuals, and processes are non existant or need dramatic change.
This sets the tone for your interaction with your new team and gives you a steer on what questions to ask, and more importantly what answers to expect.
The second thing I do is listen and try to eek out and understand the issues from as many different points of view as I can. Those that hired you will have already given you their point of view, but you can be sure you will get varieties on a theme by asking around. It's also important not to criticise your predecessor or the business, after all the people you are talking to are part of that history and the decisions that were made.
With a more rounded understanding of the business and what needs to be achieved we can start to put together a vision for the future and a plan for how to get there. This plan will include tactics and tools that have previously been used successfully but will also require you and your new team to come up with some novel approaches. Not completely relying on past success and directly involving those around you in the solution to any problems is a great way to start fostering teamwork and trust. Your team will also know a lot more about the strengths and weaknesses in your new organisation than you do.
With a list of problems and possible solutions starting to take shape, we will need to work out a way to define where things are now and how to measure progress on the way to achieving our goals. This means we need to work out what to measure, how to measure it and how to make sure that the data is valid. To start with we are probably going to want metrics on Operations, Projects & Development, Staff engagement, and Finances. The exact KPI’s should be set on an engagement by engagement basis a they will vary significantly from business to business.
The first few weeks of any new job feel like a whirlwind, and even though we have a mountain to climb as we start to get to grips with everything, it's imperative to find time to meet as many people as possible and ask as many questions as possible. The first few months are the only time you get to ask daft questions over and over again, and the answer to a ‘why do you do it like that’ question could lead to your biggest success. Start with your line management and direct reports, and then expand to try and meet as many other people in the company as possible.
As ever - Plan to be agile and you will be agile.